Construction manpower planning is sometimes confused with workforce scheduling. While scheduling is certainly one aspect of manpower planning, effective and strategic manpower planning requires that general contractors make the effort to put the right people and the right number of people, to the right projects at the right time. All the while ensuring that the manpower planning is aligned with the goals of the organization.
Construction manpower planning is a continuous process that involves regularly reviewing the organization's current resources, forecasting future recruitment needs, ensuring that the supply of manpower and skilled workers meets the demand of projects, and also ensuring the opposite – that the supply of projects meets the demand of your manpower.
Essentially, it’s the optimal use of your team and balancing the allocation of resources to avoid potentially costly errors in team allocations.
- Understaffing can lose general contractors customers and project bids, but also puts active projects at risk of not hitting important building milestones on time
- Overstaffing is expensive and can be costly to fix, puts projects at risk by allocating labor costs that aren’t needed, and will ultimately reduce the competitive efficiency of the organization
Lastly, manpower in the construction industry requires career development and upgrading your existing team. That means identifying team member abilities, skills, and experience while also identifying gaps in labor requirements that will prevent the organization from meeting its strategic goals.
Why effective construction manpower planning is so important
HELPS ALLOCATE APPROPRIATE CONSTRUCTION MANPOWER TO TASKS
Effective construction crew scheduling will help to better understand the amount of manpower required based on the scope of the project. Is it a long or short term project? Is it big or small? Analyzing the data from projects of similar scope in your project history can help to identify how much manpower will be needed for future projects. It will also help to identify the different staffing requirements as you move through each phase of the project lifecycle.
Once you have identified the scope of the project, and are able to objectively compare it against historical projects of similar scope, you can create an accurate roster for your project teams. Using your roster means you can identify the available resources to take on a new project, ensure that the labor cost fits within the budget for the project, and adjust accordingly.
Overstaffing can lead to high costs, lack of employee engagement, and laying off potentially valuable members of your team. On the flip side, understaffing projects will elevate your project team’s stress which may lead to lower work quality, but also inhibits the organization’s ability to expand when the opportunity arises. Accurate construction manpower planning can help to allocate the appropriate skills, and number of team members to meet project and organizational goals. Bridgit Bench manpower planning tools can help reduce over and under allocations for your project timeline.
Construction manpower scheduling is often a very complex, time-consuming process given the dynamic nature of the construction industry. Project dates and labor requirements can often change on a dime. Scheduling is a major component of effective construction manpower planning, yet many general contractors continue to use a series of spreadsheets to create and track their manpower schedule. The problem with that is the workforce data required to create an efficient schedule is often housed in multiple different spreadsheets. Matching the team members to their current project allocation, the percentage at which they were allocated, and the project’s position across the project spectrum within an organization requires operations teams to double as “mental gymnasts,” and is challenging to say the least.
Dedicated building schedule software can help to simplify the scheduling process by centralizing the data required to schedule your workforce effectively. Manpower planning designed specifically for the construction industry can help with:
- Labor forecasting – Being able to accurately predict the labor requirements for active projects as they move through each project phase, as well as the impact that future projects will have on your scheduling in terms of overlapping allocations and potentially costly gaps of available team members between projects
- Shifting allocations – Visualizing the impact on your scheduling when a project date slips, requiring the team to stay on-site longer than expected
- Running scenarios – Building project teams for future projects based on the likelihood of winning the bid, and understanding what that will mean for your organization before the bid is won
- Project allocations – Creating balanced project teams based on availability, skill sets, strengths and weaknesses, and specific project experience
Simplifying and optimizing your scheduling helps to increase the flexibility of your organization, maximize productivity, better control costs, and test different schedule combinations.
AIDS IN RECRUITMENT AND HIRING
Being able to forecast your construction manpower requirements using your utilization rate can help to stay ahead of your recruitment. Forecasting your workforce utilization into the future will allow you to identify projects and bids that will require you to bring on new team members. The key isn’t simply identifying when you’ll need to hire new team members, but rather identifying it early. Having to rush the hiring process can often result in a poor hire and a study done by Human Resources Online revealed that a poor hire costs your organization 17 weeks of time from hiring, training, discovering they were a poor hire, and replacing them. 17 weeks, just shy of a third of a year.
Your utilization rate will also allow your organization to map its skills demand and indicate which roles you should be hiring or training your team to take on. If your Project Engineers consistently show a 50% increase in utilization over your Project Coordinators, you know that your demand for engineers is higher and can begin your recruitment process.
ENSURES CONSTRUCTION STAFFING RESOURCES ARE USED EFFICIENTLY
Similar to recruitment and hiring, manpower planning tools that provide insight into your labour management in construction and utilization rates will also help to ensure that resources are being used efficiently and reduce overall bench costs. By understanding how your workforce is being utilized and tracking utilization rates into the coming months and years, general contractors are able to identify underutilized individuals.
Tips for effective staff management in construction
BEGIN PLANNING FOR PROJECTS EARLY
The early planning phase of construction projects is the most important phase in terms of influencing the end result. Decisions made during the project planning phase help to set the strategic framework moving forward. Influencing the outcome, or changing the course of a project, happens most before costs have been committed. We recently posted some tips on preparing for manpower meetings if you’d like to read more.
One of the most important steps in early project planning is putting together the best team for the project. There are a lot of moving parts that go into every construction project and making sure you have assembled a strong project team to meet the client’s expectations is critical to project success and client retention. Building a strong project team means properly analyzing your team’s experience and skill sets that are relevant to the project, and also ensuring the team you’ve chosen has the capacity to take on the assigned work. Planning early can help to understand the impact that new projects will have on your workforce plan and make adjustments to remedy any foreseeable conflicts.
FACILITATE PROPER COMMUNICATION AMONG WORKERS
Communication is key for effective construction manpower management. From setting project and company goals, improving accountability, and establishing expectations, a company culture built on a foundation of good communication will have stronger employee engagement and be more equipped to navigate potential issues that arise.
Effective construction manpower planning takes identifying underutilized resources one step further and allocates that team member to the project where they will have the most significant impact to the work being done. The foundation of efficient utilization is built during manpower meetings. Teams that understand how to run manpower planning meetings effectively will have alignment on workforce strategy, and are better equipped to ensure resources are being used efficiently.
In a study by The Economist on the negative impact of poor communication, the most significant consequences were listed as:
- Added stress to the workforce
- Delays or failures to complete projects on time
- Low morale
- Missed performance goals
Poor communication can have a snowball effect that begins with less tangible issues like stress and low morale, but those issues lead to poor company culture, and less engaged team members that are less likely to hit objectives and complete their work on time. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way we communicate with our teams, we’ve created a list of video conferencing tools for manpower planning meetings you can use to maintain better communication when working remotely.
Construction manpower planning solutions can help to build controlled transparency around your workforce planning to facilitate better communication amongst your team. It allows you to centralize and maintain accurate data that is crucial for supporting decisions and helps to ensure everyone is on the same page. Read more about strategies for manpower planning meetings in one of our recent blog posts.
USE CONSTRUCTION CREW SCHEDULING SOFTWARE
Construction manpower scheduling software allows for streamlined allocation of your workforce which can result in more time to schedule your team strategically. It also consolidates all necessary information to save costly hours of locating and analyzing relevant information to build strong project teams. The benefits of using scheduling software also include:
- Making scheduling a collaborative process
- Easily identify allocation issues including overlapping and under/over allocated team members
- Highlighting project roles that still need to be filled
- Creating transparency to eliminate team member confusion when transitioning projects
ENCOURAGE FEEDBACK FROM FIELD WORKERS
As we touched on earlier, there are many benefits to fostering a culture of good communication. This should also include feedback from your field team. Information about how project teams are working together helps to build stronger project teams in the future, avoid previous missteps, and also give operations teams an opportunity to fix any potential issues immediately. Feedback on individual performance can help to identify high-performing team members that might appreciate an opportunity to move up the ladder and would be open to additional training and mentorships. Improving communication and engagement from your team is one of the benefits of manpower planning meetings.
Common mistakes in construction team planning
Overstaffing a project can happen for multiple reasons; poor planning, the scope of work shifts and isn’t reflected in the workforce plan, or in some cases more resources are simply thrown at a project in an attempt to get the work done faster. Overstaffing can often have the opposite of the intended effect with idle hands leading to a distracted and less productive team. Not to mention the financial problems that arise when too much money is being spent on labor costs.
Effective manpower planning for construction projects will help to identify trends in your staffing needs. This will help to create a context for your staffing and whether it’s a temporary problem or if it requires more drastic action. If operations are able to identify specific projects that are overstaffed, they should promptly deal with the issue by reallocating resources to other projects.
POOR CONSTRUCTION WORKLOAD MANAGEMENT
One of the best ways to improve team member engagement and retention is to create balanced workloads that allow your team to focus on the quality of the work at hand. Spreading a team member too thin creates a stressful work environment and can lead to poor quality of work and decreased morale. Adversely, not providing your team with enough work to keep means the organization is increasing their bench costs. Understanding your team’s capacity helps to take swift actions to maintain balanced construction workload management.
ASSIGNING THE WRONG PERSON TO A TASK
Effective construction crew scheduling is a difficult task. It requires that your operations have an understanding of the capacity, skill sets, project experience, and strengths and weaknesses of every member of the team. Given the difficulty of tracking these individual details, allocating team members is often based on gut-feel.
Assigning the wrong person to a task can result in your team member being overwhelmed by a task that is out of the reach of their current knowledge and experience. This can be used as a learning opportunity, however if learning time isn’t appropriately accounted for the team member may be asking for too much help, delivering results slowly, and potentially with poor quality.
On the other hand, the rest of the project team will recognize their team member is drowning in their work and will attempt to help, or simply complete the task at hand themselves. This can lead to poor project morale as some team members will blame management for having to carry the weight of the assigned team. Manpower planning tools can help to ensure you’re assigning the right person for every project or project phase.
Poor objective-setting leads to a lack of accountability with results and tracking progress. If you’re unfamiliar with setting SMART goals, it’s where you make the effort to have each objective:
- Specific – Nothing should be left open to interpretation. Objective language should be specific and include who, what, where, why, and how.
- Measurable – An objective is difficult to measure if there isn’t a numeric value attached to it. For example - “win more projects this quarter” should become “win 6 new projects this quarter.”
- Attainable – This requires a balance between making goals too obtainable and not within reach. Your objectives should challenge your team, but not be impossible to achieve.
- Relevant – Objectives should align with your organizational strategies and be relevant to the team expected to achieve them.
- Timely – To avoid having objectives constantly pushed out, it’s important to set reasonable deadlines to help your team prioritize their work appropriately.
NOT HAVING A KICK-OFF MEETING
Your kick-off meeting for a project is crucial for establishing alignment with goals, objectives, team responsibilities and accountability. The kickoff is about introducing the team and getting an understanding of the project and the background. It’s also an opportunity to explain what success should look like and how the team should work together effectively to achieve success. It’s a chance to motivate the team and build enthusiasm for the project, and instill increased confidence from the client that they’ve got the right team for their project.
Accurate estimating is an extremely difficult, but equally important task. Inaccurate estimation can result in losing bids because estimates are too high. On the other hand, you may find your organization winning project bids that were estimated too low and will result in an unprofitable project.
Labour costs can be the most difficult cost to estimate accurately. Proper construction workforce management solutions will allow you to keep a record of job costs, including labour, which can be used to make more accurate estimates on future projects and construction team planning.
Training & onboarding: A key part of staff management in construction
Because of the inherent risk involved in every project, proper training, onboarding, and staff management for construction is critical. Your team needs to understand proper safety and operating procedures to ensure their safety and the safety of the team around them.
Training and onboarding lays the groundwork for a strong foundation for new team members to feel as though they are a part of a community that supports them. In a study done by Pinnacol, it was revealed that 50% of workplace injuries in the construction industries happen to team members that have been on the job for less than a year. To put that into perspective, claims filed for new team members in the construction industry cost contractors in Colorado nearly $42 million dollars in 2015.
Having proper training and onboarding help to improve your organization’s reputation and employee retention. General contractors that are willing to invest in their workforce and focus on maintaining them long-term are more attractive to potential hires. If a general contractor has a lot of long-term team members, it’s likely a sign they’re doing something right.
Effective manpower planning for construction should be a focus for any general contractor that is looking to maximize their workforce productivity and performance. It’s a process that involves consolidating all relevant information to enable strategic, data-driven decision-making in order to reach organizational goals.
Construction manpower management is a challenge. However, with the use of construction manpower scheduling software, general contractors are able to automate many of the manual processes involved, avoid common manpower planning mistakes, set SMART objectives, and stay ahead of their workforce strategy to gain an operational advantage.